Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Purgatorio
Courtney Langdon - The Divine Comedy

Antepurgatory. The Negligent who died by Violence
Address to Italy and Florence

Whene'er a game of dice is broken up,
the one who loses sorrowing stays behind,
and learns, as sadly he repeats the throws;
while with the other all the people leave;
one goes before, one grasps him from behind,
and at his side one asks to be remembered.
And he stops not, but that one heeds and this;
the one whose hand he takes no longer crowds;
and from the throng he thus defends himself.
E'en such as he, was I in that dense crowd;
for as I this and that way turned my face,
and promised each, I freed myself therefrom.

Here was the Aretine who met his death
from Ghin di Tacco's cruel arms, and he,
who running madly in pursuit was drowned;
here Frederick Novello prayed with hands
outstretched, and he of Pisa, who induced
worthy Marzucco to reveal his strength.
Count Orso I beheld here, and the soul
through spite and envy from its body parted,
and not, so he maintained, through crime committed;
Pierre de la Brosse, I mean; and here, while still
on earth, let Brabant's Lady see to it,
that 'mong the worse flock she be not for this.

When I was free from each and all those shades,
who only prayed that others pray for them,
that their becoming holy might be sped,
"It seems that thou deniest," I began,
"O thou my Light, expressly in a text,
that prayer can cause a change in Heaven's decrees;
and yet these people only pray for this;
could it then be, that this their hope is vain,
or is thy saying not quite clear to me?"

And he to me: "That which I wrote is clear,
nor yet delusive is this people's hope,
if it be looked at with a healthy mind;
for Justice stoops not from her lofty height,
because Love's ardor all at once fulfils
what he who dwelleth here must satisfy;
and there where I decided on this point,
the fault was not made good again by praying,
because the prayer discordant was with God.
Yet in so deep a doubt decide thou not,
unless She bid thee do so, who a light
shall be between thine intellect and truth.
I know not if thou understand; I speak
of Beatrice; thou 'lt see her up above,
smiling and happy, on this Mountain's top."

And I: "Let 's go, then, Lord, with greater haste;
for now I grow not weary as before;
and see, the hillside casts its shadow now."

"We shall go forward with this day," he answered,
"as long as we are able; but the case
is otherwise than what thou deemest it.
Ere thou shalt be up there, thou him shalt see
return, who now so shields him with the hill,
that thou dost not compel his rays to break.
But yonder see a soul who all alone
is seated, and toward us is looking now;
he will point out to us the quickest way."

We came to him. O Lombard soul, how full
of self-respect and noble scorn thou wast,
and in the moving of thine eyes how slow
and dignified! Naught did he say to us;
but let us go our way, and only gazed
as would a couching lion in repose.

Virgil, meanwhile, drew near to him, and begged
that he would show to us the best ascent;
and he to his request made no reply,
but asked us of our country and condition;
and my kind Leader was with "Mantua . . ."
beginning, when the self-collected shade,
from where he was, sprang up to meet him, saying:
"O Mantuan, I 'm Sordello, of thy town!"
and each the other thereupon embraced.

Ah, Italy, thou slave, thou inn of woe,
ship without pilot in a mighty storm,
not queen of provinces, but house of shame!
So instant ready was that noble soul,
but at the sweet sound of his city's name,
to welcome here his fellow citizen;
and yet within thee now, thy living sons
are not exempt from war, and those one wall
and moat enclose upon each other prey!
All round thy coast-line search its shores, poor wretch,
and then within thy bosom look, and learn
if any part of thee be blest with peace.
What boots it that Justinian rearranged
thy bridle, if thy saddle vacant be?
Had it not been for that, thy shame were less.

And ye, ah, ye, that ought to be devout,
and so let Caesar in his saddle sit,
if well ye heeded God's advice to you,
behold how wild this animal has grown,
through being uncorrected by the spur,
since ye first set your hands upon her rein!

O German Albert, thou that dost forsake
this creature now become untamed and wild,
and oughtest to bestride her saddle-bows,
may some just judgment from the stars befall
thy blood, and may it so unheard of be,
and plain, that it may frighten thy successor!
For, held by greed of lands outside its bounds,
thou and thy father also have allowed
the Empire's Garden to become a waste.
Come see the Montagues and Capulets,
Monaldi and Filipeschi, careless man,
already troubled those, and these in dread!
Come, come, thou cruel man, and see the oppression
of thy nobility, and right their wrongs;
and thou shalt see how safe is Santafior!
Come see thy Rome, that, widowed and alone,
is shedding tears, and day and night is calling:
"Why dost thou not, my Caesar, stay with me?"
Come see the people, how they love each other!
And if for us no pity move thy soul,
come, then, and shame thee for thine own renown!
And, if I be allowed, O Jove Supreme,
Thou that for us wast crucified on earth,
are Thy just eyes, too, turned away elsewhere?
Or in Thy counsel's depths art Thou in this
a preparation making for some good,
from our perception utterly cut off?
For all Italia's towns are full of tyrants,
and a Marcellus every churl is deemed,
who comes to play a party henchman's rôle.

My Florence, well mayst thou be satisfied
with this digression, which concerns thee not,
thanks to thy people, who look out for that!
Many at heart are just, but slow to shoot,
lest to the bow uncounselled they should come;
but thy folk on their lips alone are just!
Many refuse to bear the common burden;
but thy folk eagerly respond, and cry,
although uncalled: "I 'll load myself therewith!"
Be joyful, then, since thou hast cause to be;
thou that art rich, that peaceful art, and wise!
Whether I speak the truth, results conceal not.
Athens and Lacedaemon, they that framed
the ancient laws, and were so civilized,
in living well made but a little mark
compared with thee, that dost so carefully
provide thee, that thy fine October spinning
as far as mid-November reaches not.
How many times, within thy memory,
hast thou changed laws and coinage, offices
and customs, and thy membership renewed!
And if thou well recall and face the light,
thou 'lt see thy likeness to a suffering woman,
who on a feather-bed can find no rest,
but seeks, by tossing, to relieve her pain.

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